Chairman's Fund

Anglo American boosts healthcare in rural areas

Norman Mbazima: Chairperson of the Chairman's Fund
Norman NM15.jpg
Anglo American’s dedicated Corporate Social Investment arm, the Chairman’s Fund, has significantly aided healthcare in underdeveloped and underprivileged areas in South Africa, through its contributions over the past two years towards the South African Brain Institute’s (SABRI) Rural Health Capacity Building Project. 

The Chairman’s Fund contribution of R100 000 each in 2011 and 2012, will aid the Rural Health Capacity Building Project’s primary goal of improving minor surgery and the initial treatment of addiction in these areas by using psychotropic analgesic nitrous oxide (PAN). 

Consequently, health professionals from non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) will have training in the administration of PAN, and this will also empower primary health care centres to offer inexpensive treatments not presently available on site. 

The latest grant will specifically allow SABRI to improve PAN therapy capacity building in medical male circumcision (MMC) sites nationally for 2012 to 2013. Chairman’s Fund chairperson, Norman Mbazima, notes that the Fund’s decision to contribute towards the project is aligned to its strategic focus. 

“Anglo American recognises that the most effective method to empower the previously disadvantaged communities in South Africa is to support innovative models that strengthen the healthcare system. 

“Undoubtedly, the Rural Health Capacity Building Project will achieve this goal, and help make a real difference to underdeveloped and rural areas, by providing much needed primary health care services, and helping public health services save significant referral costs.” The PAN treatment for addiction was pioneered and developed in South Africa, and is used locally, in Europe, and in the United States. 

The treatment, which involves a low concentration of nitrous oxide being mixed with high concentrations of oxygen, allows a patient to be fully conscious and co-operative at all times, while receiving treatment. Patients breathe in the gas, which subsequently affects the endorphin system by manipulating pleasure-pain principles in attempts to bring them into equilibrium. 

This consequently reduces the need for external sources such as alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes to achieve a sense of balance. It can also be used as a local anaesthetic for minor procedures. Unlike other treatments currently employed, which often rely heavily on benzodiazepines that produce secondary and often intractable addiction, the gas is usually used only for one administration. 

Normally, only one exposure to PAN is necessary, and people can be treated within communities without being hospitalised. The medication has rapid and lasting effects, even after a single, short exposure. Professor Mark Gillman, Executive Director of SABRI, expands on its benefits. 

“Clinical experience by thousands of health practitioners in millions of cases treated in South Africa, Europe, USA and elsewhere has shown that PAN is an ideal simple agent for relaxing patients during minor surgery. Subsequently, the need for expensive general anaesthetics is avoided, and patients can be treated as out-patients, which prevent costly bed-occupations.” 

However, Gillman stresses that while PAN is an excellent treatment for addictive withdrawal states, it is not a cure for addiction, and is rather used as the first essential step in the process of detoxification, which a victim of substance abuse must undergo before the process of healing can begin. 

Mbazima concludes that the Fund will continue to align itself with initiatives that effect a real change on community health development. “The Chairman’s Fund has helped engender a widespread difference in communities by helping to bolster fundamental health services. Moving forward, we will continue to seek out initiatives such as the Rural Health Capacity Building Project, which are instrumental to the personal development and wellbeing of numerous people.
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